Difference between revisions of "Vietnam War"

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===The North Vietnamese Terror===
===The North Vietnamese Terror===
During the twenties and thirties, Communist forces waged an insurrection of mass murder and terrorism in an effort to seize power in Vietnam. The communist Viet Minh collaborated with French colonial forces to massacre supporters of the Vietnamese nationalist movements in the forties. When the Viet Minh went to war against France they continued their campaign to wipe out the nationalist groups.  (America refused to back the French against the communists until 1950.)<ref>Robert F. Turner, Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development (Hoover Institution Press, 1975), pp57-9, 67-9, 74 and “Myths of the Vietnam War,” Southeast Asian Perspectives, September 1972, pp14-8</ref>  The Japanese invasion of French Indochina proved to be a catalyst for Vietnamese independence, as it united the Vietnamese people behind the Communist resistance to imperial domination.  
During the twenties and thirties, Communist forces waged an insurrection of mass murder and terrorism in an effort to seize power in Vietnam. The communist Viet Minh collaborated with French colonial forces to massacre supporters of the Vietnamese nationalist movements in the forties. When the Viet Minh went to war against France they continued their campaign to wipe out the nationalist groups.  (America refused to back the French against the communists until 1950.)<ref>Robert F. Turner, Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development (Hoover Institution Press, 1975), pp57-9, 67-9, 74 and “Myths of the Vietnam War,” Southeast Asian Perspectives, September 1972, pp14-8</ref>  The Japanese invasion of French Indochina proved to be a catalyst for Vietnamese independence, as it united the Vietnamese people behind the Communist resistance to imperial domination.  
The survival rate for French soldiers in Communist POW camps was comparable to the rates of survival in the Dachau concentration camp during the [[Holocaust]].
From 1953 to 1956, the North Vietnamese Communists embarked on a ruthless "land reform" in which landowners, dissidents, and French collaborators were slaughtered en masse in a "genocide triggered by class discrimination."<ref>http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html</ref>  Early estimates as to the number killed varied from 50,000 to 1,000,000.<ref>http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm</ref>  Although far-left activists such as Gareth Porter, Edwin Moise, Marilyn Young, and Edward Herman have for years denied that the bloodbath ever took place (by relying entirely on official North Vietnamese Communist propaganda, which Moise claimed was “extremely informative” and showed “a fairly high level of honesty”),<ref>http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/Vietnam/portermyth73.pdf</ref> there is now a substantial literature available documenting the incredible scale of the mass killings.<ref>http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM</ref><ref>http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P4416.pdf</ref><ref>http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html</ref>
From 1953 to 1956, the North Vietnamese Communists embarked on a ruthless "land reform" in which landowners, dissidents, and French collaborators were slaughtered en masse in a "genocide triggered by class discrimination."<ref>http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html</ref>  Early estimates as to the number killed varied from 50,000 to 1,000,000.<ref>http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm</ref>  Although far-left activists such as Gareth Porter, Edwin Moise, Marilyn Young, and Edward Herman have for years denied that the bloodbath ever took place (by relying entirely on official North Vietnamese Communist propaganda, which Moise claimed was “extremely informative” and showed “a fairly high level of honesty”),<ref>http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/Vietnam/portermyth73.pdf</ref> there is now a substantial literature available documenting the incredible scale of the mass killings.<ref>http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM</ref><ref>http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P4416.pdf</ref><ref>http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html</ref>

Revision as of 23:36, 25 December 2012

Vietnam War
Date 1959-1975
Location Vietnam
Anticommunist Forces
South Vietnam
United States
Communist Forces
North Vietnam
South Vietnamese residents flee Saigon, as North Vietnamese forces enter the city.

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War or The American War (in Vietnam), was fought principally between North Vietnamese Communist troops and South Vietnamese forces supported by American soldiers. The war was basically a fight over whether South Vietnam should have a Communist government, part of the ongoing Cold War between the US and the Soviets.

The war was in progress more or less continuously since the surrender of Japan, which occupied Vietnam during World War II, in 1945. Ho Chi Minh, an operative of the Comintern (the Soviet organization charged with promoting Marxist-Leninist revolution around the world),[1] led the movement for a unified, Communist Vietnam from 1941 on. He served as the dictator of North Vietnam until the late fifties, though he remained the figurehead president. He remained a popular icon of the New Left around the world, despite heading a totalitarian dictatorship and supporting the slaughter of millions of people.


During World War II the Japanese occupied Vietnam and disarmed the French. With the vacuum caused by the defeat of Japan, an opportunity arose for the Communists to declare the "independence" of Vietnam in 1945. No nation recognized the new regime and the French returned and swept it away, with remnants hiding in the mountains. The United States backed France and its puppet emperor Bao Dai. Ho Chi Minh began a campaign to fight a weakened France and seize independence through force. France's economy was shattered by the war and so by 1953, 80% of the money and material used by Bao Dai's troops came from the United States. Nonetheless, in early 1954 French were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu over many months when the fortress was overrun by a well-forged Vietnamese fighting force. More than 500,000 Vietnamese died in this conflict with France (the First Indochina War).

The French sued for peace at talks in Geneva, the upshot of which was the creation of four independent countries in their former colony of Indochina: Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was run by Ho Chi Minh as a totalitarian Communist dictatorship, while the South was run based on the Western model. Neither side respected the legitimacy of the other; as a consequence, the division was widely regarded as temporary. A British diplomat suggested that free elections be held in the North and South to determine the future of a unified Vietnam. Contrary to commonly repeated myths; it was North Vietnam, not South Vietnam, that was the most extreme and steadfast in its efforts to prevent any such election from taking place. Nevertheless, it is true that South Vietnam consistently opposed all such arguments, claiming that the majority of South Vietnamese wanted independence, but that those North Vietnamese who wanted conquest should not be allowed to veto their just demands. The United States was willing to accept free elections and a reunified Vietnam, Communist-led and hostile to China. Indeed, US officials favored such a default outcome; they listed it in secret communications never intended for public consumption (but released in the Pentagon Papers) under the heading "advantages."[2] The US gradually intervened, due to the insistence of the North on a campaign of military aggression, as part of its wider Cold War strategy of containment.

Unwilling to accept or even consider free elections, and with the South's economy growing rapidly and its prospects looking brighter by the day, Ho Chi Minh was up against a wall. A unity government was established in Laos, and the US was firmly committed to defending South Vietnam from conquest. Huge numbers of North Vietnamese desperately fled to the South for freedom. Cambodia was neutral and united behind the rule of Sihanouk. Despite repeated diplomatic efforts by the US to bring about a peaceful regional settlement; Hanoi became increasingly convinced that the revolution could be spread throughout Indochina only by force.

The North Vietnamese Terror

During the twenties and thirties, Communist forces waged an insurrection of mass murder and terrorism in an effort to seize power in Vietnam. The communist Viet Minh collaborated with French colonial forces to massacre supporters of the Vietnamese nationalist movements in the forties. When the Viet Minh went to war against France they continued their campaign to wipe out the nationalist groups. (America refused to back the French against the communists until 1950.)[3] The Japanese invasion of French Indochina proved to be a catalyst for Vietnamese independence, as it united the Vietnamese people behind the Communist resistance to imperial domination.

From 1953 to 1956, the North Vietnamese Communists embarked on a ruthless "land reform" in which landowners, dissidents, and French collaborators were slaughtered en masse in a "genocide triggered by class discrimination."[4] Early estimates as to the number killed varied from 50,000 to 1,000,000.[5] Although far-left activists such as Gareth Porter, Edwin Moise, Marilyn Young, and Edward Herman have for years denied that the bloodbath ever took place (by relying entirely on official North Vietnamese Communist propaganda, which Moise claimed was “extremely informative” and showed “a fairly high level of honesty”),[6] there is now a substantial literature available documenting the incredible scale of the mass killings.[7][8][9]

The North Vietnamese bloodbath began innocuously enough with an innocently named "rent reduction" campaign ostensibly designed to aid the poor. The slaughter escalated in 1954, with the beginning of "land reform" proper, which saw an award of more than 800,000 hectares of land and rice paddies, plus 100,000 cows and water buffalo, redistributed to 2 million farmers.[10] The killing soon spread in a frenzy across the entire country in an outburst of societal madness.[11] Neighbors turned on neighbors in a paranoid attempt to satisfy government quotas specified as to the number that had to be killed per village. Anyone accused of being "bourgeois" would be executed immediately after a Stalinist show trial; children were forced to witness and applaud the slow torturing of landowners.[12] Rebellions were crushed through mass deportations; scores of thousands were sent to camps; streets were filled with bodies. The entire population joined in, convinced that killing was necessary to "purify" society. Anyone deemed "too wealthy" was socially ostracized to such an extent that they could not acquire basic food or shelter, and thus starved to death along with their entire families.[13]

Domestic repression escalated dramatically, and the only free paper in North Vietnam was shut down after writing: 'If somebody tells me to keep my mouth shut in case the Americans and Diem should make capital out of what I say, I reply: "Diem has a very good case when he refuses to hold joint consultations with us on the ground that there is no freedom in North Vietnam."'[14]

Official Vietnamese government records smuggled out of the country and authenticated document some 172,000 executions of victims named as landowners excluding summary executions of Communist cadre,[15] which are estimated at 40-60,000.[16] This is in line with democide analyst R.J. Rummel's estimate of 152,000 executed.[17] The lowest widely accepted estimate of executions is a conservative figure of 56,000 from historian Bernard Fall.

Lam Thanh Liem, a major authority on land issues in Vietnam, estimates the number of executions as being potentially in the hundreds of thousands:

In South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Canh, a former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information and Amnesty (1969-70), sought an answer to this problem by interviewing returnees from Chieu Hoi programs and interrogating POWs, including communist cadres, soldiers, and officers from the North. These interviews and interrogations produced a great deal of valuable and reliable information. Ultimately Nguyen Van Canh was able to generate an estimate of 200,000 victims, which he divided into 2 main categories:

— 100,000 accused and murdered during the period before 1955, excluding another 40,000 victims who were sent to various concentration camps in the mountain areas. Here most of them died of malaria or other epidemic diseases. Those who were able to survive and were released became crippled mentally as well as physically. They have led a dog’s life ever since.

— 100,000 killed during phase 5, the last phase of the reform campaign, known as the Dien Bien Phu General Offensive, which ended in summer 1956. Thousands of others, most of them rich farmers and land owners, were sent to concentration camps for “reeducation.”

Of more than 200,000 victims executed, 40,000 (20%) were communist cadres, according to Nguyen Van Canh.

During work visits to the Mekong Delta (assigned by Ho Chi Minh City’s agriculture department), we had opportunities to talk to a number of Northern cadres working in scientific and technological areas as part of the “agricultural collectivization policy” in 1978-9. The discussions eventually touched on the land reform campaign in the North. Two of the cadres admitted that they were participants in the campaign in 1955-6.

— One estimated that 120,000 victims were falsely accused and executed. This number included 40,000 communist cadres.

— The other gave a larger figure: 150,000-160,000 victims killed, among them 60,000 communist cadres.

In general, the conclusions and estimates are similar; especially the number of communist cadres, which ranged from 20-30% of the total number of victims. Though the numbers of victims falsely accused may be different, the acceptable figure is 120,000-200,000 (including cadres and Party members).[18]

Virtually all contemporary scholars accept a figure of at least 150,000 executions, an estimate backed up by the some 150,000 houses and huts allocated to new occupants during the "reform".[19] But this does not convey the full scale of the slaughter in this 4-year period alone. Rummel estimates a total of 250,000 dead; counting summary executions of party cadre, killings of dissidents and political prisoners, undocumented massacres, and forced starvation/suicides,[20] a figure roughly identical to that extrapolated from official Vietnamese government records.[21]

Beyond this quarter of a million, however, many more were killed in democide by the government of North Vietnam. By conservative estimates, 10-15,000 were killed by the state through its suppression of various uprisings.[22] At least 60,000 were killed in camps from 1945-75,[23] and as many as 40,000 died of epidemics caused by state policy during deportations.[24] There is only one estimate of the democide associated with the "rent reduction" campaign, and for it the source (Hoang Van Chi, a Vietnamese nationalist with firsthand experience) cites Professor Gerard Tongas, who was in Hanoi during these years (he left in 1959). The estimate suggests that approximately 100,000 were killed in the early fifties during this prelude to the land reform.[25] However, based on Nguyen Van Canh's research, as well as statements from Tongas and Rummel; it is not clear whether or not this number is included in the estimates for the total number of executions during the "land reform" period.

Throughout this entire period, various political struggles/revolts were accompanied by government retaliation. Although estimates are less clear for the number killed during these conflicts, Chi cites a figure of 3-5 killed in every village in the country in the 1953 "political struggle" campaign alone,[26][27] which adds up to at least 45-75,000 dead. Other independent estimates suggested 70,000 were killed in 1956 through political repression and massacres,[28] and from this scholars have attempted to determine a rough overall total. Though most of these deaths do not cover recorded executions of landowners and none slave labor, camps, starvation, or suicides; assuming a sensible overlap between these estimates and other estimates of dead for the period and considering the estimated total dead from all causes during this time; Rummel estimates some 70-150,000 additional deaths.[29] North Vietnam also killed tens of thousands in anti-Nationalist terror during the forties[30], and committed democide in the war with France.

Rummel estimates that Hanoi killed 195,000-865,000 North Vietnamese from 1953-57,[31] with a “most-likely” figure of 365,000 dead. One way of assessing this figure is by comparing it to the total number of executions documented in official Vietnamese government records smuggled out the country by defectors and authenticated: 172,000. It would be expected that the total number of deaths from all causes throughout this whole period would be at least twice this sum.

A US intelligence report estimated 500,000 were killed in North Vietnam in the fifties.[32]

Up to 200,000 were executed in purges from 1957 on (Rummel estimates 50,000[33]) and at least 50,000 more were killed through other means.[34]

Radio Free Asia reported that unofficial estimates of those killed by Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam Labor Party, which later become the Vietnamese Communist Party, range from 200,000 to 900,000 for its entire reign.[35] Taking every available estimate for deaths by cause under North Vietnam and averaging them out; Rummel arrived at a low of 242,000 and a high of 922,000 killed from 1945 to 1957.[36]

President Nixon claimed that 500,000 were massacred and 500,000 killed in concentration camps during the "land reform" period alone; but there are no independent estimates of camp deaths that are anywhere near that high a total.[37] However, if one assumes that the lethality of these camps can be determined by comparison to those established in South Vietnam after 1975--where 16.5% of 1,000,000 prisoners died--then 240,000 North Vietnamese were killed in camps from 1945 to 1975 if the North Vietnamese camps were slightly less than half as lethal.[38] If one assumes a more likely and conservative figure of 5% dead annually (in line with Rummel's mid-estimate); this still adds up, over 30 years, to some 150,000 dead in concentration camps. This number can further be checked by comparison to the range: at least 2% of prisoners died per year, or 60,000 in three decades; the average between this and the high of 240,000 is exactly 150,000.

In 1959, Hanoi's politburo received a series of reports indicating that even though the North had been directing a phase one guerrilla insurgency in the South for two years, the South was socially and economically out-pacing the North. "By Tet of 1959," William Colby writes in his book, Lost Victory, "it was plain that a nationalist and non-Communist Vietnam was firmly established. It was also becoming apparent that its future was, if anything, more promising than the gray and regimented society in the North."[39]

In response, the North decided to rapidly escalate the campaign to conquer South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia using the Ho Chi Minh trail. To "hide" the fact that "there had been an invasion from the North," as one North Vietnamese commander openly admitted, seemingly indigenous forces were deployed in the initial phases of the conflict. Originally part of the Vietminh and honorary branches of the North Vietnamese army; groups of Cambodian (the Khmer Rouge), Laotian (the Pathet Lao), and South Vietnamese (the Vietcong) Communists were dispatched by the North to overthrow the governments of their respective countries. Thousands of North Vietnamese troops overtly aided them by providing arms and training, and by invading and occupying large chunks of Cambodia and Laos to assist them. By 1961 northern Communists were assassinating one hundred southern hamlet, village, and/or district officials each month. By 1962 that figure had grown to one thousand per month.[40]

The atrocities escalated rapidly with no end in sight. By 1965, the guerilla war was largely over, and the army of North Vietnam was using conventional warfare to try and overrun Cambodia and South Vietnam. The US began sending military advisors to South Vietnam in 1950. By 1965, it reluctantly decided to commit combat troops to prevent a Communist takeover.

The Viet Cong massacres were described as follows:

The village chief and his wife were distraught. One of their children, a seven-year-old boy, had been missing for four days. They were terrified, they explained to Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis W. Walt, because they believed he had been captured by the Vietcong.

Suddenly, the boy came out of the jungle and ran across the rice paddies toward the village. He was crying. His mother ran to him and swept him up in her arms. Both of his hands had been cut off, and there was a sign around his neck, a message to his father: if he or anyone else in the village dared go to the polls during the upcoming elections, something worse would happen to the rest of his children.

The VC delivered a similar warning to the residents of a hamlet not far from Danang. All were herded before the home of their chief. While they and the chief’s pregnant wife and four children were forced to look on, the chief’s tongue was cut out. Then his genital organs were sliced off and sewn inside his bloody mouth. As he died, the VC went to work on his wife, slashing open her womb. Then, the nine-year-old son: a bamboo lance was rammed through one ear and out the other. Two more of the chief’s children were murdered the same way. The VC did not harm the five-year-old daughter — not physically: they simply left her crying, holding her dead mother’s hand.

General Walt tells of his arrival at a district headquarters the day after it had been overrun by VC and North Vietnamese army troops. Those South Vietnamese soldiers not killed in the battle had been tied up and shot through their mouths or the backs of their heads. Then their wives and children, including a number of two- and three-year-olds, had been brought into the street, disrobed, tortured and finally executed: their throats were cut; they were shot, beheaded, disemboweled. The mutilated bodies were draped on fences and hung with signs telling the rest of the community that if they continued to support the Saigon government and allied forces, they could look forward to the same fate.

These atrocities are not isolated cases; they are typical. For this is the enemy’s way of warfare, clearly expressed in his combat policy in Vietnam. While the naive and anti-American throughout the world, cued by communist propaganda; have trumpeted against American “immorality” in the Vietnam war — aerial bombing, the use of napalm, casualties caused by American combat action — daily and nightly for years, the communists have systematically authored history’s grisliest catalogue of barbarism. By the end of 1967, they had committed at least 100,000 acts of terror against the South Vietnamese people. The record is an endless litany of tortures, mutilations and murders that would have been instructive even to such as Adolf Hitler.

In 1960, some 1,500 South Vietnamese civilians were killed and 700 abducted. By early 1965, the communists’ Radio Hanoi and Radio Liberation were able to boast that the VC had destroyed 7,559 South Vietnamese hamlets. By the end of 1967, 15,138 South Vietnamese civilians had been killed, 45,929 kidnapped. Few of the kidnapped were ever seen again.[41]

The War

In 1958, North Vietnam launched an invasion of Laos.[42]

In 1959, by its own admission, North Vietnam decided on war in South Vietnam. North Vietnam created the Viet Cong and sent 20,000 men to attack the South. In 1961, North Vietnam used 30,000 troops to build invasion routes via Laos and Cambodia. North Vietnam later admitted that it “played a decisive role” in bringing to power the Pathet Lao in Laos and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.[43]

The Kennedy administration, which had repeatedly intervened to halt right-wing coups, acquiesced in November 1963 to the overthrow of the weak South Vietnam leader Diem by a coalition of generals. President Nixon would later characterize this decision as a catastrophic betrayal of an ally that contributed to the ultimate disintegration of South Vietnam. The casus beli for full combat intervention by the United States was an alleged attack on the USS Maddox on August 2, 1964 and a second alleged attack of August 4, 1964 on both the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy by North Vietnam; the events became known as the "Gulf of Tonkin Incident". Shortly thereafter, President Johnson got Congress to pass the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution". President Johnson then deployed US military forces for warfare against North Vietnam. He had the US respond with a massive bombing campaign called "Operation Rolling Thunder". Although a swift victory over North Vietnam would have taken a matter of months, the risk of Chinese intervention was considered too great to accept. Thus, Vietnam was fought to avoid "another Korea".

President Johnson, a tormented but ultimately sincere man, could not bear the burden of the war. His incoherent war policy, combined with the lies and deceptions he employed to sell it, resulted in a loss of public faith in his honesty. He began to doubt himself, while his incompetent administration, exemplified by Robert McNamara, began to have doubts about the morality of US policy. Many of them would join the anti-war movement.

Richard Nixon was subsequently elected President on a pledge to end the war by prosecuting it. His shrewd diplomacy, backed with the immense intellect of his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, hoped to negotiate an end to the war through a show of force.

Although Sihanouk designated all insurgents "red Khmers," or "Khmer Rouge," in reality there were two main indigenous insurgent groups. One was the Khmer Viet Minh, modeled on the Pathet Lao, that Hanoi held total political authority over. The other was called the Khmer Krahom, a fanatical Maoist cult that would soon be led by one Saloth Sar, who would later become infamous for his genocidal brutality under his assumed name, Pol Pot. Both traced their roots back to a common cadre trained by Ho Chi Minh in China from 1925-30. At Geneva, Hanoi had attempted to secure a KVM "zone" in northeastern Cambodia that would have been modeled on the Pathet Lao zone they secured in Laos. This amounted to an attempt to divide Cambodia into Communist and non-Communist halves, like Vietnam.

By 1968, the KK had 14-15,000 fighters, while the KVM had 12,000. North Vietnam had invaded and occupied large chunks of Cambodia. Nearly half of the country was faced with North Vietnamese or other Communist occupation. The Viet Cong was active in the country with about 30,000 troops, and worked with the KVM to launch invasions of Cambodia from North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese had 60,000 troops on Cambodian soil. This would be the equivalent in the United States of nearly 4 million armed and organized troops from Mexico and Canada overrunning most of the country. These figures are from 10 months prior to the start of any US bombing, which began in late 1968 under President Johnson.

By 1969, the North had accelerated its long-term plan, dubbed "Campaign X," to conquer Cambodia. By 1970, it had the supply lines, troops, and logistical support necessary to force the collapse of Cambodia. Sihanouk had long done little to disguise his support for the North Vietnamese Communists, but now he grew afraid. "Hanoi," he said, "could easily force the collapse of both Cambodia and what is left of Laos if it was not faced with American opposition." Therefore, he encouraged the Americans to bomb KK, KVM, VC, and North Vietnamese "sanctuaries" in Cambodia so as to send Hanoi a message that it had better back down immediately. Demographic evidence indicates that the US bombings of Cambodia, especially the Menu bombings, ultimately killed about 40,000 Cambodian combatants and civilians.[44] Some estimates go as high as 100,000 killed by the bombing.[45] Many leftists opposed to the war considered the bombing to be a war crime. The Khmer Rouge claimed that 600-800,000 died in the war,[46] which is about three times the real figure,[47] and far-left activists such as Noam Chomsky have not only embraced these numbers but also attributed all of the deaths to American bombing and thus implied that the Khmer Rouge underestimated the full toll from the war[48]--despite the demographic impossibility of their assertions.

In 1970, North Vietnamese troops invaded and attempted to overrun the entire country of Cambodia at the request of the indigenous Communist forces, who had surrounded the capital and hoped one small push would be enough to overthrow the weak Lon Nol regime. Nixon responded forcefully with an incursion and bombing campaign to force the North Vietnamese out. Justifying his actions, he stated:

"Cambodia, a small country of 7 million [actually 8 million] people, has been a neutral nation since the Geneva agreement of 1954 - an agreement, incidentally, which was signed by the Government of North Vietnam.

American policy since then has been to scrupulously respect the neutrality of the Cambodian people. We have maintained a skeleton diplomatic mission of fewer than 15 in Cambodia's capital, and that only since last August. For the previous 4 years, from 1965 to 1969, we did not have any diplomatic mission whatever in Cambodia. And for the past 5 years, we have provided no military assistance whatever and no economic assistance to Cambodia.

North Vietnam, however, has not respected that neutrality.

For the past 5 years - as indicated on this map that you see here - North Vietnam has occupied military sanctuaries all along the Cambodian frontier with South Vietnam. Some of these extend up to 20 miles into Cambodia. The sanctuaries are in red and, as you note, they are on both sides of the border. They are used for hit and run attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.

These Communist occupied territories contain major base camps, training sites, logistics facilities, weapons and ammunition factories, airstrips, and prisoner-of-war compounds.

For 5 years, neither the United States nor South Vietnam has moved against these enemy sanctuaries because we did not wish to violate the territory of a neutral nation. Even after the Vietnamese Communists began to expand these sanctuaries 4 weeks ago, we counseled patience to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed restraints on our own commanders.

In contrast to our policy, the enemy in the past 2 weeks has stepped up his guerrilla actions and he is concentrating his main forces in these sanctuaries that you see on this map where they are building up to launch massive attacks on our forces and those of South Vietnam.

North Vietnam in the last 2 weeks has stripped away all pretense of respecting the sovereignty or the neutrality of Cambodia. Thousands of their soldiers are invading the country from the sanctuaries; they are encircling the capital of Phnom Penh. Coming from these sanctuaries, as you see here, they have moved into Cambodia and are encircling the capital."[49]

Although North Vietnam would invade and annex South Vietnam and invade, occupy, force the collapse of and establish total political control over Laos; it would ultimately fail to meet this objective in Cambodia. Though it supported, or rather offered support to, the KK; its goal of directly establishing political control over Cambodia would not be reached until 1979. Some commentators, like William Shawcross, have controversially argued that the US bombing, by forcing out the North Vietnamese, helped to create the conditions that allowed Pol Pot to come to power. Shawcross and others have also claimed that the US bombing was the main propaganda tool used to recruit members for the KK, and that it helped radicalize the Cambodian populace and swell the ranks of the Communists.

Documents uncovered from the Soviet archives after 1991 reveal that the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1970 was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge and negotiated by Pol Pot's then second in command, Nuon Chea.[50]

When Nixon came into office, there were more than 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, and their number was increasing. Hanoi insisted that to obtain a cease-fire, the U.S. had to meet two preconditions: First, the U.S. had to overthrow the South Vietnamese government, disband its police and army and replace it with a communist-dominated government. Second, it had to establish an unconditional timetable for the withdrawal of its forces, to be carried out regardless of subsequent negotiations or how long they might last. The presence of North Vietnamese troops in Laos and Cambodia was declared not an appropriate subject for negotiations. Between 1969 and 1972, he withdrew 515,000 American troops, ended American ground combat in 1971 and reduced American casualties by nearly 90%. According to Kissinger, "a breakthrough occurred in 1972 because the administration's strategic design finally came together in its retaliation for the North Vietnamese spring offensive. When the U.S. mined North Vietnam's harbors, Hanoi found itself isolated because, as a result of the opening to China in 1971 and the summit in 1972, Beijing and the Soviet Union stood aside. Hanoi's offensive was defeated on the ground entirely by South Vietnamese forces assisted by U.S. air power. Faced with a military setback and diplomatic isolation, Le Duc Tho, Hanoi's principal negotiator, abandoned Hanoi's 1969 terms in October 1972. He accepted conditions publicly put forward by Nixon in January 1972 -- and decried as unachievable in the U.S. domestic debate. The terms of the resulting Paris peace agreement were an unconditional cease-fire and release of prisoners; continuation of the existing South Vietnamese government; continued U.S. economic and military help for it; no further infiltration of North Vietnamese forces; withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces; and withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from Laos and Cambodia."[51]

Nixon brought about the first peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, and dramatically lessened the scale of the bloodshed in Indochina. For a time, it seemed peace might be within our reach. Nixon was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.

Meanwhile, the Khmer Krahom fell under the control of its most fanatical members, led by Pol Pot and Ieng Sary. They were beyond the control of Hanoi and sought to completely annihilate Cambodian society and restart from scratch. When they besieged the capital again, the US again launched a bombing raid against Communist forces. The US Seventh Air Force argued that the bombing prevented the fall of Phnom Penh in 1973 by killing 16,000 of 25,500 Khmer Rouge fighters besieging the city.

The communist leaders had expected that the ceasefire terms would favor their side. But Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Vietcong. The communists responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Tran Van Tra.

As the Vietcong's top commander, Trà participated in several of these meetings. With U.S. bombings suspended, work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other logistical structures could proceed unimpeded. Logistics would be upgraded until the North was in a position to launch a massive invasion of the South, projected for the 1975–1976 dry season. Trà calculated that this date would be Hanoi's last opportunity to strike before Saigon's army could be fully trained.

In 1974, Congress voted not to enforce the commitments agreed to in the Paris Peace Accords. Air support for Cambodia, South Vietnam, and Laos was cut off. The military aid promised was scaled back or never materialized, and the North was allowed to resume support for the Khmer Rouge. "After Nixon stepped down over Watergate," said one Communist commander, "we knew we would win."[52] Without the logistical support provided by the Ho Chi Minh trail, the North would not have been able to launch an invasion of South Vietnam by 1975, which it predicted would be its "last chance" before the South was self-sufficiently able to defend itself.[53] The US canceled the bombing of Communist positions on the trail. In Cambodia, last minute efforts on the part of the US to arrange for a peace settlement involving Sihanouk ended in failure. When the US Congress vetoed Ford's call for a resumption of air support in Cambodia, panic and a sense of doom filled the capital, which was mercilessly shelled for more than a year by the Communists. President Ford openly predicted a "bloodbath" and stated that the Congress's decision to abandon Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge, in particular, would lead to "an unbelievable horror story".[54] The US frantically abandoned Saigon, and the Pathet Lao advanced throughout Laos.


Professor R.J. Rummel calculates that Communist Vietnam directly killed 1.7 million people from 1945 to 1987 in democide alone (not counting war casualties),[55] from a total range of 700,000 to 3.7 million murdered.[56] Some 400,000 to 2.5 million of these were killed after 1975. These figures include Laotians and Cambodians killed by Hanoi.

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, fell to followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge, on April 17, 1975. Over the next four years, the Khmer Rouge enacted a genocidal policy that would kill over one-fourth of all Cambodians, or more than 2 million people. Investigators have uncovered and examined the remains of 1,386,734 Cambodians found in mass graves near Khmer Rouge execution centers whose cause of death has been determined to have been virtually exclusively execution by the former Khmer Rouge regime. [57] Because only about one-half to a third of those who died during the Khmer Rouge years were executed (the rest having died from other causes like state-created famine, the deliberate withholding of basic necessities by the state, the refusal by the state to allow foreign aid, the abolishing of medicine and hospitals by the state, systematic overwork and slave labor by the state, brutal mistreatment by the state, and normal mortality), the Documentation Center of Cambodia estimates that the former regime killed or otherwise caused the unnecessary deaths of, between 2.0 and 2.5 million Cambodians, with a most likely estimate of 2.2 million.[58] This is because 2.5 to 3 million Cambodians died from 75-79, and 500,000 deaths over this time would have represented normal mortality--subtracting these "expected" deaths from the total, we derive the total number of "unexpected," "excess" deaths attributable to the regime. A UN investigation reported 2-3 million dead, while UNICEF estimated 3 million had been killed.[59] Even the Khmer Rouge acknowledged that 2 million had been killed—though they attributed those deaths to a subsequent Vietnamese invasion.[60] By late 1979, UN and Red Cross officials were warning that another 2.25 million Cambodians faced death by starvation due to “the near destruction of Cambodian society under the regime of ousted Prime Minister Pol Pot,”[61][62][63] who were saved by American and international aid.

The victorious Communists perpetrated a huge bloodbath in South Vietnam, murdering hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese men, women, and children in cold blood. The victorious Communist troops entering South Vietnam massacred around 100,000 civilians who attempted to flee the "Highlands" offensive.[64] The most exact study documented 70,000 executions in the first ninety days of the fall of Saigon;[65] while a total of 100-250,000 South Vietnamese were executed by the Communists altogether (the mid-value, 150,000, is exactly what you would expect--double the number killed in the first-ninety-day reprisals).[66][67][68] (Jacqueline Desbarats and Karl Jackson, cited by the State Department for their figure of 65,000 executions; later concluded that this figure was absurdly low and that the real number was probably twice as large;[69] no independent sources estimate a toll lower than 100,000). 2.5 million were sent to concentration camps, of whom some 165,000-230,000 were never seen again;[70] another million were deported to the North, and it is estimated that 50-150,000 died in the process due to epidemics, mistreatment, starvation, and the slave labor that they were made to perform in the "New Economic Zones" to which they were sent.[71][72] Half a million Chinese citizens were forcibly deported from Vietnam. Tens of thousands more were killed through other means. Based on the total number of refugees who fled from Vietnam--more than 3 million--an absolute minimum of 300,000 boat people died at sea, since the lowest estimate ever put forward as to how many died was 10%.[73] The highest possible figure, based on the number who arrived to freedom, would probably be on the order of Rummel's 500,000. A mid-value estimate would thus be on the order of 400,000 dead, in line with UN estimates,[74] but far lower than the estimates of the Vietnamese government (and US intelligence).[75] In sum, then, about 500-600,000 South Vietnamese were killed by the Communists after the US withdrawal (i.e., 200,000 in concentration camps; 150-200,000 executed; 50-150,000 killed through slave labor; 100,000 massacred trying to escape the Communist victory after the “Highlands” assault; and—based on the hundreds of thousands sent to prisons, camps, and slave labor zones through the eighties, nineties, and more recent years—undoubtedly many tens of thousands since)[76]—with the victims beheaded, eviscerated or buried alive[77]—, and another 300-500,000 were drowned. This can be checked by a comparison of how many refugees fled the slaughter—and what this implies about its scale—and how many South Vietnamese fled the war itself. These considerations give us no reason to adjust this total. Finally, some 171,500 were killed in the invasion of South Vietnam,[78] putting the total number of Vietnamese dead after 1973 at over one million.

The Pathet Lao overthrew the Royalist Government of Laos in December 1975. They established a Communist dictatorship known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Pathet Lao waged a campaign of genocide, exterminating an estimated over 100,000 Hmong tribespeople. They inflicted massacres, terror bombing, concentration camps, and mass rape.[79] The Communists killed over 184,000 people in Laos altogether.[80]

More than 3 million people fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos as “boat people,” about half of whom have been resettled by the United States.

After repeated border clashes in 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and ousted the Khmer Rouge, installing a puppet government headed by Khmer Rouge defector Heng Samrin. From January until July 1979, according to CIA estimates, 6% of the Cambodian population (around 350,000 people) was killed, primarily by Vietnam's refusal to allow foreign aid for a time. In addition, a comparable number of people fled Cambodia for Thailand.[81] The toll from the entire famine over the years 1979-81 is estimated at about 500,000 dead (according to Etcheson).[82] Some 25-50,000 Vietnamese died in combat,[83] while perhaps 100,000 Cambodian combatants and civilians died in the war itself.[84][85] Tens of thousands more were killed by the Khmer Rouge, which controlled parts of the country late into 1979 and waged a guerilla war against the Vietnamese-backed government.[86] The total number of people killed by the Samrin regime in democide has never been clearly documented. Rummel estimates 230,000;[87] but this is mere guesswork. As noted, scores of thousands more were killed in the civil war that followed the invasion and by Khmer Rouge guerillas. Rummel believes that the full toll from this period could be in excess of one million.[88] This claim may be an exaggeration, but as is common in post-genocide societies, the population growth rate for Cambodia in the eighties was exceptionally high--which could have masked the full extent of the democide.

In response to the Soviet-backed Vietnamese invasion, China invaded Vietnam in 1979. The two countries fought a brief border war, known as the Third Indochina War, which cost over 200,000 casualties, including some 30,000 deaths.

In 1981, Pol Pot made his famous declaration denying guilt for the brutalities committed by the organization he led:

Pol Pot said that he knows that many people in the country hate him and think he’s responsible for the killings. He said that he knows many people died. When he said this he nearly broke down and cried. He said he must accept responsibility because the line was too far to the left, and because he didn’t keep proper track of what was going on. He said he was like the master in a house he didn’t know what the kids were up to, and that he trusted people too much. For example, he allowed [one person] to take care of central committee business for him, [another person] to take care of intellectuals, and [a third person] to take care of political education.... These were the people to whom he felt very close, and he trusted them completely. Then in the end ... they made a mess of everything.... They would tell him things that were not true, that everything was fine, that this person or that was a traitor. In the end they were the real traitors. The major problem had been cadres formed by the Vietnamese.

Communist Vietnam's refusal to allow international food aid into Cambodia after 1979 so as to starve out whatever remained of the Khmer Rouge resistance nearly led to the mass death of millions of people from starvation and disease.[89]

Vietnam fought three more wars after 1975 and armed Communist insurgencies with billions of dollars in an attempt to overrun Thailand and Malaysia.[90] In South Vietnam, a nightmarish police state was established based on the Stalinist model: Political parties were outlawed; all music, books, literature, movies, and other media published prior to 1975 were banned completely; rationing, malnutrition, and famine ensued; ongoing class discrimination, xenophobic ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution continue to this day.[91][92][93][94][95]

The US and other Western countries covertly armed the non-Communist forces of Son Sann and Prince Sihanouk in an attempt to force out the Vietnamese troops occupying Cambodia. These brave guerillas also engaged in extensive fighting with the Khmer Rouge.[96] (See Reagan Doctrine)

In 1988, parts of Vietnam suffered famine, with millions of people on the brink of death.[97] Hundreds of thousands died before emergency international aid relieved the suffering.

The bloodbath in Vietnam is frequently underestimated even by right-wing commentators. For example, Vietnamese officials like Nguyen Co Tach have admitted that 2.5 million South Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps, but Western sources usually refer to "more than one million." Some defenders of US policy mention that "tens of thousands of boat people died," but given the number who fled and the number resettled, it seems impossible that the real number could have not been in the hundreds of thousands. Most critics of the Vietnamese government only mention the bare minimum of 100,000 executions, which could easily be doubled--and not the nearly 200,000 killed in the invasion of South Vietnam, or the 400,000 boat people who died at sea, or the 200,000 killed in re-education camps, or the 100,000 killed in slave labor, or the tens of thousands of suicides, or the deaths caused by the 1988 famine that affected millions, or the deaths that resulted from the deportation of 1 million South Vietnamese to the North. In fact, it is politically correct to refer to their crimes as "minor when compared to those of the Khmer Rouge," despite the fact that the slaughter of a million people is not minor, even when compared to the slaughter of 2 million--and the Vietnamese Communists were ultimately responsible for the war and all its destruction, including the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

Far from bringing peace, American defeat vastly increased the scale of the bloodshed in Indochina, as over 4 million people were slaughtered in a bloodbath far surpassing the expectations of even the most fervent supporters of the war. Although North Vietnam agreed to "peace" in 1973; no one protested its subsequent invasion of South Vietnam, let alone Vietnam's wars with China, Laos, and Cambodia. The campuses were silent on the Holocaust in Cambodia, despite their hysterical response to the limited US incursion in 1970. The bloodbath received little media coverage at the time.

Failure of US campaign to help the South

Military, political, and social historians have ever after debated why the United States was unable to defeat the North Vietnamese.

James Q. Wilson wrote: "First, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson both wanted to avoid losing Vietnam without waging a major war in Asia." [98]

Another factor was careerism of the officer corps. The number of officers in the US army grew disproportionately from the end of WWII, with a 1-in-15 ratio dropping to 1 in 6. Competition for promotions was handled badly by General Westmoreland, who permitted a six month tour of duty for officers. This was hardly enough time to learn how to engage the enemy successfully, and gave rise to resentment among the largely working-class enlisted men.[Citation Needed]

America at first operated on the assumption that victory by body count was possible and would eventually bring the North Vietnamese to the peace table. There were in fact peace negotiations following Operation Linebacker II in December 1972, but these succeeded mostly in giving the United States its prisoners back and time to withdraw from the fight. It was simply impossible for the North Vietnamese leadership, which had been fighting in some form for 30 years, to imagine the indefinite existence of South Vietnam apart from unification under their rule.

Cost of the War

The war exacted a huge human cost, including an estimated one to two million North and South Vietnamese,[99] 100,000 to 600,000 Cambodians[100][101] and 30-50,000 Laotians.[102] The most comprehensive and detailed demographic survey ever conducted on casualties during the war, from Population and Development Review, estimated that nearly one million Vietnamese were killed throughout the two decades of conflict.[103] R.J. Rummel originally put the total at 1.2 million Indochinese killed on all sides.[104] Rummel later revised the estimate to over 2 million in all of Indochina, including 1.7 million in North and South Vietnam.[105] Communist propaganda claimed that 3-6 million died in the war, and a small minority of radical anti-war protestors and Chomsky cultists endorsed these figures, although they are not demographically possible.

The most widely cited/accepted estimate, and the middle value of the plausible range (1-2 million Vietnamese) is 1.5 million. This figure is often used in US school textbooks. Keeping in mind that there was not a 50/50 split for casualties between Hanoi and Saigon, and that North Vietnam suffered losses far heavier than the South, we could put the casualty ratio at 60/40. This would yield a rough estimated total of 875,000 North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed in the war compared to 625,000 soldiers and civilians killed in South Vietnam. If, on the other hand, the more recent demographic studies of Charles Hirschman and others are correct, then the real figures were probably closer to 500,000 South Vietnamese and 700,000 North Vietnamese, and even that may be slightly too high. This estimate is substantiated by US intelligence, which estimated that 200-250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, and a smaller number of civilians, were killed in the war.[106] Further, this includes those South Vietnamese killed in the massive invasion of South Vietnam made possible by the American withdrawal.

US intelligence and available demographic evidence suggest that Hanoi's official figure[107] of 3 million Vietnamese dead in the war was an exaggeration.[108] Its figures for both military and civilian deaths are about double the accepted numbers, and they further claim that 1 million soldiers died and 600,000 were wounded--even though wounded is typically three times the number of dead.[109] No other independent sources arrive at such a high number.

During the peak war years, almost a third of civilian deaths were the result of Viet Cong atrocities.[110]

Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 North Vietnamese civilians died in the war.[111]

Demographic analysis indicates that the commonly cited figure of 600,000 dead in the Cambodian civil war may have been invented by Pol Pot himself and is more than the twice the real number of war-related deaths.[112][113][114]

Over the course of the war, the United States suffered 46,226 battle deaths with 153,311 wounded 5,486 missing and 10,326 non-battle deaths. 3.3 million troops fought over the course of the war, with the largest number of 625,866 reached on March 27th, 1969. As of 2010, more veterans of the war have died from suicide than killed on the battlefield. [115] This shows a largely unaddressable or poorly administered health issues persist and the U.S. Government has failed in its obligation to care for traumatized Vietnam veterans. The North Vietnamese claimed to have lost 1 million men.[116] Such a casualty rate, if applied to the United States, would have meant 13 million Americans killed and 3.9 million missing in action.[117]

They were quite a group, the boys of Vietnam -- boys who fought a terrible and vicious war without enough support from home, boys who were dodging bullets while we debated the efficacy of the battle. It was often our poor who fought in that war; it was the unpampered boys of the working class who picked up the rifles and went on the march. They learned not to rely on us; they learned to rely on each other. And they were special in another way: They chose to be faithful. They chose to reject the fashionable skepticism of their time. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty. They had the wild, wild courage of youth. They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age; they stood for something.

And we owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong. ---President Ronald Reagan, 1986

The US bombing and invasion of Cambodia killed 40,000 combatants and civilians, while US forces in Vietnam killed over 70,000 (higher estimates go to over 100,000) Vietnamese.

The death toll from US defeat arguably surpassed that exacted by the war itself.

Controversies about the War

Max Boot wrote:

Numerous bits of conventional wisdom have accreted around the Vietnam War. It is commonly held that Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese nationalist above all, not a true communist, and that his victory was inevitable. That Ngo Dinh Diem was an unpopular and repressive reactionary. That the United States had no vital strategic interest in defending South Vietnam. That the ‘domino theory’ was a myth. That the U.S. was right not to invade North Vietnam or Laos for fear of triggering Chinese intervention. Mark Moyar, a young, bold, and iconoclastic historian, takes a sledge hammer to these hoary beliefs. [His book] is ‘revisionist’ in the best sense of the word.” [3]

Jeffrey Record contends that the military was relegated, as a result of its constitutional position, to the role of an accomplice in what Records states was the most strategically reckless American enterprise of the 20th century. He charge President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara with harshly suppressing their military advisers, with Johnson believing that his hawkish Joint Chiefs of Staff were out to destroy his Great Society by their wild-eyed schemes.[118]

Media Bias

Charges of western media bias in favor of the Communist side have often been made by critics,[119] who see such alleged bias as being crucial in turning military victories by America into a loss of the war, much by means of propaganda. Underlying the importance of such is the often quoted exchange between Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Colonel Tu. During one of his liaison trips to Hanoi, Colonel Harry told Tu, "You know, you never beat us on the battlefield," Colonel Tu responded, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."[120]

The success of the propaganda war has seemed enigmatic to many. “If there is to be an inquiry related to the Vietnam War, it should be into the reasons why enemy propaganda was so widespread in this country, and why the enemy was able to condition the public to such an extent that the best educated segments of our population (that is, media and university elite) gave credence to the most incredible allegations.” (Final Report - Chief of Military History - U.S. Government)

British "Encounter" journalist Robert Elegant stated,

For the first time in modern history, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield but on the printed page and, above all, on the television screen. Looking back coolly, I believe it can be said (surprising as it may still sound) that South Vietnamese and American forces actually won the limited military struggle. They virtually crushed the Viet Cong in the South, the "native" guerrillas who were directed, reinforced, and equipped from Hanoi; and thereafter they threw back the invasion by regular North Vietnamese divisions. Nonetheless, the war was finally lost to the invaders after the U.S. disengagement because the political pressures built up by the media had made it quite impossible for Washington to maintain even the minimal material and moral support that would have enabled the Saigon regime to continue effective resistance....Never before Vietnam had the collective policy of the media sought by graphic and unremitting distortion, the victory of the enemies of the correspondents own side.[121]

Some journalists have admitted that their reporting was decidedly biased, and had profound effects on history. West German correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto confessed, "Having covered the Viet Nam war over a period of five years for West German publications, I am now haunted by the role we journalists have played over there.

In relation to not reporting the true nature of the Hanoi regime and its actions resulting from the American withdrawal, he stated,

"Those of us who had wanted to find out knew of the evil nature of the Hanoi regime. We knew that, in 1956, close to 50,000 peasants were executed in North Viet Nam. We knew that after the division of the country nearly one million North Vietnamese had fled to the South. Many of us have seen the tortured and carved-up bodies of men, women, and children executed by the Viet Cong in the early phases of the war. And many of us saw, in 1968, the mass graves of Hue, saw the corpses of thousands of civilians still festively dressed for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year."

"Why, for heaven's sake, did we not report about these expressions of deliberate North Vietnamese strategy at least as extensively as of the My Lai massacre and other such isolated incidents that were definitely not part of the U.S. policy in Viet Nam?. What prompted us to make our readers believe that the Communists, once in power in all of Viet Nam, would behave benignly? What made us, first and foremost Anthony Lewis, belittle warnings by U.S. officials that a Communist victory would result in a massacre?

Why did we ignore the fact that the man responsible for the executions of 50,000 peasants, Truong Chinh, was—and still is—one of the most powerful figures in Hanoi. What made us think that he and his comrades would have mercy for the vanquished South Vietnamese? What compelled, for example, Anthony Lewis shortly after the fall of Saigon to pat himself on the shoulder and write, "so much for the talk of a massacre?"

"...Are we journalists not in part responsible for the death of the tens of thousands who drowned? And are we not in part responsible for the hostile reception accorded to those who survive?...However, the media have been rather coy; they have not declared that they played a key role in the conflict. They have not proudly trumpeted Hanoi's repeated expressions of gratitude to the mass media of the non-Communist world, although Hanoi has indeed affirmed that it could not have won "without the Western press."[122]

CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite regularly carried news reports from its Moscow Bureau Chief, Bernard Redmont. When peace negotiations commenced with North Vietnam in Paris, Redmont became CBS News Paris Bureau Chief. What Redmont never reported during the ten year conflict was, Redmont had been a KGB operative since the 1930s, and member of the notorious Silvermaster group.[123] Redmont was the only journalist to whom his fellow Comintern party member, and North Vietnamese chief negotiator, Mai Van Bo, granted an interview to bring the Communist point of view into American living rooms in what has been called, "the living room war."

The most manifest example of such biased reporting is held to be the portrayal of the TET offensive, in which western media was charged with inspiring and aiding the propaganda war of the communists.

Truong Nhu Tang stated years later,

The Tet Offensive proved catastrophic to our plans. It is a major irony of the Vietnam War that our propaganda transformed this debacle into a brilliant victory. The truth was that Tet cost us half our forces. Our losses were so immense that we were unable to replace them with new recruits. (Truong Nhu Tang - Minister of Justice - Viet Cong Provisional Revolutionary Government - The New York Review, October 21, 1982)

In addition to his biased reporting, FBI documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by Yahoo news, evidence that legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite collaborated with anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s, going so far as to offer advice on how to raise the public profile of protests and even promising that CBS News would rent a helicopter to take liberal Senator Edmund Muskie to and from the site of an anti-war rally.[124]

An on going example of such liberal bias is the work on Vietnam by the extreme left-wing propagandist, historical revisionist and genocide-denier Marilyn Young, which is required reading in many universities, even though she denies the North Vietnamese "land reform" bloodbath by relying entirely on official Communist press releases (as well as Moise and Porter, who in turn rely entirely on official North Vietnamese press releases). According to her, Communist Vietnam killed only 15,000(!) people at most during the "reform" and all other accounts of its atrocities were fabrications made up by the Western media (hence North Vietnamese media is a more reliable source than any in the West—a point she quite explicitly argues); even though official North Vietnamese government records smuggled out of the country document over 172,000 recorded executions of individuals named as landowners during the 1954-6 period alone[125][126] (these exclude starvation, suicides, deportations, concentration camps, slave labor, Viet Cong atrocities, suppression of uprisings, the "rent reduction" campaign, the 1953 "wave of terror," the killing of Communist cadre and all the other decades of mass murder from the forties through the seventies).

Young ignores the testimony of former North Vietnamese government officials like Hoang Van Chi, as well as foreign witnesses like Gerard Tongas; she denies the irrefutable demographic evidence of the "disappearance" of at least 150,000 landowners from 1953-6[127]; she dismisses US intelligence; accuses Vietnamese experts like Lam Thanh Liem of lying; and mocks the survivors of Communist genocide as CIA propagandists. She endorses Noam Chomsky's nonsensical lies, supports the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, paints a glowing picture of the concentration camps, and reduces the role of Khmer Rouge atrocities to 500-1,000,000 by citing the obscure and unknown Pol Pot apologist Michael Vickery--despite the 1,386,734 victims of execution in the mass graves!

Young further blames America for Pol Pot's rise, attributes all of the deaths in the entire war solely to the United States, and (on page 310) argues that the "boat people" really fled Vietnam not due to Communist repression, but rather the US trade embargo. She also simply denies the Hue Massacre.

Finally, Young claims that South Vietnam was the aggressor and that its imaginary “violation” of the 1973 cease-fire prompted the invasion from the “peace-loving” North--which is not surprising in the light of her reliance on official Communist sources, although it suggests quite a chasm between their claims and reality.[128]

Notably, all of Young's sources on North Vietnamese crimes come from the North Vietnamese government itself, and she fails to cite a single dissident Vietnamese publication independent of that government in her entire work, while casting suspicion on the honesty of Vietnamese refugees. That she is a respected Professor indoctrinating American youth is consistent with the overall liberal propaganda that has come to characterize American higher eduction.

Paul Bogdanor notes: "The bloodbath deniers simply ignore or dismiss the evidence from dissident publications, communist defectors and foreign witnesses. They rely on official North Vietnamese publications, which they take at face value. This is what passes for scholarship on the 'anti-imperialist' left."[129] And Young is but one gulag-denying professor out of many.

Young's denial of the "land reform" bloodbath is not unique. Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy, wrote the key bloodbath-denial work, titled simply "The Myth of the Bloodbath." Professor Robert F. Turner, drawing on his knowledge of thousands of captured Viet Cong documents, scores of interviews with Communist defectors, and extensive research on the "land reform;" carefully refuted all of Porter's charges, demonstrating that they could not withstand any serious critical scrutiny and that some 300,000 people were, in fact, killed during the genocide.[130]

Porter is shown repeatedly contradicting himself, lying, making judgments that lack evidence and credibility, and accusing others of mistranslating a language he could barely speak. Although Porter's work was apparently sufficient to convince Young, its manifest sloppiness is contrary to honest scholarship. Vietnamese scholar Hoang Van Chi (1913-1988), who worked as a revolutionary and diplomat writing history and political science, also responded to Porter, who accused him of being a CIA propagandist in a ridiculous ad hominem attack.[131] Porter would later deny the Cambodian genocide and express admiration and outspoken support for Pol Pot in the infamous Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution.

Many US reporters admired the Khmer Rouge, while prominent intellectuals openly denied the Cambodian genocide. During the genocide, human rights abuses in Chile and South Korea got more coverage than Cambodia.[132] Some journalists, mocking the claims of a bloodbath, were so bold as to sing the following lyrics to the tune of "She Was Poor But She Was Honest": "Oh will there be a dreadful bloodbath/ When the Khmer Rouge come to town?/ Aye, there'll be a dreadful bloodbath/ When the Khmer Rouge come to town."[133]

Vietnam War in Popular Culture

The war and its aftermath were the inspiration for several films, including The Green Berets, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and We Were Soldiers.

The TV series Tour of Duty was about a U.S. Army platoon in country around the time of the Tet Offensive. The series Magnum, P.I, Night Court, Airwolf, and Area 88 all had Vietnam veterans as main or major characters. In the military drama series JAG, the main character's father was a US Navy pilot lost over North Vietnam, and the main character's desire to find out what happened to him is the focus of a major story arc over the first few seasons.


See: Vietnam War Quotes.


  1. Triumph Forsaken, book by Mike Moyar
  2. The Pentagon Papers (Beacon Press, 1971), vol. 3, p661.
  3. Robert F. Turner, Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development (Hoover Institution Press, 1975), pp57-9, 67-9, 74 and “Myths of the Vietnam War,” Southeast Asian Perspectives, September 1972, pp14-8
  4. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  5. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm
  6. http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/Vietnam/portermyth73.pdf
  7. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM
  8. http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P4416.pdf
  9. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  10. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  11. For more on this, see Hoang Van Chi, From Colonialism to Communism
  12. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  13. http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P4416.pdf
  14. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm
  15. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  16. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  17. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  18. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  19. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  20. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  21. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  22. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  23. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF, extrapolated from at least 2,000 per year; assuming at least 100,000 imprisoned and at least 2% dead annually
  24. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  25. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  26. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/star/images/239/2390710003A.pdf
  27. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  28. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  29. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  30. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  31. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  32. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/star/images/239/2390710003A.pdf
  33. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  34. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF, this is likely an extremely conservative figure
  35. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  36. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM#3
  37. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM#3
  38. This assumes at least 100,000 prisoners.
  39. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm
  40. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm
  41. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/hochiminh.html
  42. http://countrystudies.us/laos/24.htm
  43. The Economist, February 26, 1983; Washington Post, April 23, 1985.
  44. Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique (L’Harmattan, 1995), pp41-8.
  45. http://www.yale.edu/cgp/Walrus_CambodiaBombing_OCT06.pdf
  46. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/200chomskylies.pdf
  47. Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique
  48. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/200chomskylies.pdf
  49. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/nixon430.htm
  50. Dmitry Mosyakov, “The Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese Communists: A History of Their Relations as Told in the Soviet Archives,” in Susan E. Cook, ed., Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda (Yale Genocide Studies Program Monograph Series No. 1, 2004), p54ff. Availible online at: "In April-May 1970, many North Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam not by Pol Pot, but by his deputy Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: “Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have liberated five provinces of Cambodia in ten days.”"
  51. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/may/31/opinion/oe-kissinger31/2
  52. http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/corps-stories/vietnam/north.asp
  53. http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/corps-stories/vietnam/north.asp
  54. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/cambodia/bloodbath1.pdf
  55. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM
  56. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.TAB1.GIF
  57. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm
  58. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm
  59. William Shawcross, The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience (Touchstone, 1985), p115-6
  60. Khieu Samphan, Interview, Time, March 10, 1980
  61. New York Times, August 8, 1979.
  62. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,947511,00.html
  63. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,912511,00.html
  64. Phan (1988, p.xiv); Wiesner (1988, pp.318-19); Rummel acknowledges this but does not count it as democidal.
  65. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm
  66. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1B.GIF
  67. Human Events, August 27, 1977; Al Santoli, ed., To Bear Any Burden (Indiana University Press, 1999), pp272, 292-3
  68. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/manufacturing.html
  69. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1B.GIF
  70. Orange County Register (29 April 2001)
  71. http://worldview.carnegiecouncil.org/archive/worldview/1977/06/2881.html/_res/id=sa_File1/v20_i006_a014.pdf Based on the lethality of past North Vietnamese deportations, the toll from the population transfer alone could have been well over 100,000 dead; but Rummel chose not to estimate any deaths from the deportation, apparently because no published estimates as to the dead are available and thus any figure would be highly uncertain. However, deaths from slave labor in the "new economic zones" to which they were deported are counted by Rummel, and certainly overlap with the total number of deaths caused by the deportation. With this in mind, his high estimate of 155,000, applied to both slave labor and mass deportation, seems about exactly right--if anything, it would be conservative: More than half those deported died in previous deportations, counting the effects of slave labor.
  72. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1B.GIF
  73. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1B.GIF
  74. Associated Press, June 23, 1979.
  75. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1B.GIF
  76. Others have independently calculated an equivalent toll: Rummel estimates conservatively that 493,000 South Vietnamese, and 547,000 Laotians and Cambodians, were killed by Hanoi after 1975 outside of an additional 250,000 "boat people." This does not count the death toll from the invasion of South Vietnam or those civilians killed escaping the "Highlands" offensive. Victor Davis Hanson refers to "half a million killed, and more than a million in boats;" US intelligence estimated that several hundred thousand were killed (and a high-ranking US official estimated 300-600,000 drowned trying to escape); Del Vecchio uses similar figures. Few count the 100,000 massacred trying to escape the final Communist offensive by the victorious Communist troops.
  77. Jacqueline Desbarats and Karl D. Jackson, “Research Among Vietnamese Refugees Reveals a Bloodbath,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 1985. Here Desbarats and Jackson raise their estimate to at least 100,000 or more executions.
  78. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat2.htm#Vietnam
  79. Forced Back and Forgotten (Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, 1989); and Jane Hamilton-Merrit, Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos (Indiana University Press, 1999)
  80. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat5.htm#Lao75
  81. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/demcat.htm
  82. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB4.1A.GIF
  83. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat3.htm
  84. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat3.htm
  85. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB4.1A.GIF
  86. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB4.1A.GIF
  87. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB4.1A.GIF
  88. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP4.HTM
  89. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,947511,00.html
  90. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/hoan1.pdf
  91. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/toai.pdf
  92. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/hoan.html
  93. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/morris.pdf
  94. http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~sdenney/Vietnam-Reeducation-Camps-1982
  95. http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~sdenney/SRV-Discrimination-1990
  96. Far Eastern Economic Review, December 22, 1988
  97. Crossette, Barbara, Hanoi, Citing Famine Fears, Seeks Emergency Aid, The New York Times, May 15, 1988.
  98. When Richard Nixon became president, he wanted to end the war by pulling out American troops, and he did so. None of the three presidents wanted to win, but all wanted to report "progress." All three administrations instructed military commanders always to report gains and rely on suspect body counts as a way of measuring progress. [1]
  99. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/modules/vietnam/index.cfm
  100. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm
  101. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/demcat.htm The high is extrapolated from UN figures. The Khmer Rouge reduced the expected 1979 population from 8.4 to 6.2 million; the UN estimated an expected 1979 population of 8.7 to 9 million in the absence of the war. Cambodia's actual population in 1975 was roughly 8.2 million
  102. http://www.vietnamgear.com/casualties.aspx
  103. Charles Hirschman et al., “Vietnamese Casualties During the American War: A New Estimate,” Population and Development Review, December 1995
  104. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/WSJ.ART.HTM
  105. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DBG.TAB11.1.GIF
  106. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/628478/Vietnam-War
  107. Associated Press, April 3, 1995, "Vietnam Says 1.1 Million Died Fighting For North"
  108. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/200chomskylies.pdf
  109. http://web.archive.org/web/20071222122211/http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/VA-news/VA-Pilot/issues/1995/vp950404/04040331.htm
  110. Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 1978), pp272-3, 448-9.
  111. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF
  112. Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique (L’Harmattan, 1995)
  113. Heuveline, Patrick (2001). "The Demographic Analysis of Mortality in Cambodia." In Forced Migration and Mortality, eds. Holly E. Reed and Charles B. Keely. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  114. Banister, Judith, and Paige Johnson (1993). "After the Nightmare: The Population of Cambodia." In Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge, the United Nations and the International Community, ed. Ben Kiernan. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies.
  115. On Veteran's Day: Some Grim Statistic, Beliefnet, November 11, 2010
  116. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979, Chart Page 1221
  117. Who Lost Vietnam?, by Joseph L. Galloway, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report
  118. The wrong war. Why We Lost in Vietnam, by Jeffrey Record.
  119. Leonard Magruder, “I was there and that’s not the way it was”
  120. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, Harry G. Summers
  121. How to Lose A War: The Press and Viet Nam; Encounter (London), vol. LVII, No. 2, August 1981, pp. 73-90
  122. Uwe Siemon-Netto in the International Herald Tribune, reprinted in Encounter, October 1979
  123. KGB file 43173 vol. 2 (v) pp. 46-55, Alexander Vassiliev, Notes on A. Gorsky’s Report to Savchenko S.R., 23 December 1949. Original document from KGB Archives [2].
  124. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_ts2067/print
  125. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_landreform-20060608.html
  126. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  127. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  128. Vietnam Wars, 1945-90 by Marilyn Young.
  129. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/left/vietnam/landreform.html
  130. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/deniers/vietnam/turner.pdf
  131. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/deniers/vietnam/chi.pdf
  132. "Irvine derived from the Television News Index and Abstracts a statistical table on media coverage of human rights in Chile, South Korea, North Korea, Cuba and Cambodia. The news organizations covered were the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the three television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC in 1976. The findings were startling. In table 4.1, the reader will see that, contrary to the Porter-Hildebrand-Chomsky-Herman claims, the New York Times and Washington Post published four and nine stories on human rights in Cambodia, respectively. According to table 4.1, Chile received more than eight times the coverage "on human rights problems" as did Cambodia. South Korea was covered merely 5.6 times more often. The total allocation of media resources to Cambodia paled in comparison to the massive campaign against Chile and South Korea, two non-communist countries. Perhaps the reason why Chomsky and Herman used anecdotal evidence to prove their theories was because they knew that aggregate analysis would show they were wrong." Sophal Ear. "The Khmer Rouge Canon." http://jim.com/canon.htm
  133. http://jim.com/canon.htm#ch2

Further reading

  • Prados, John. Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975 (2009) 704 pages
  • Jennings, Phillip. America's victory in Vietnam 244 pages "A well-researched, brisk review of the central myths of the Vietnam War, set in historical context." (James S. Robbins, Washington Times)

External links